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Cultural Amnesia

The Submergence of Terrifying Events in the Racial Memory and their Later Emergence

I thank you Dr. Holmes for the introduction. My comments tonight consist of informal remarks on material that I cover in a systematic fashion in the book that I am writing. This book. Mankind in Amnesia, elaborates upon new aspects that follow from my other published works.1


In Worlds in Collision I describe two series of catastrophic events: The first took place in the middle of the second millennium before the present era, the second in the eighth century before the present era. The last of these catastrophic events occurred on 23 March -686.2 Fortunately, men were not illiterate at the time of these catastrophes.

One of the first clues as to what had happened I discovered in a book written over one hundred years ago, by a French missionary who worked in Canada, but who wrote about Mexico, C.E. Brasseur de Bourbourg.3 He wrote several books on the subject of ancient Mexican beliefs and ancient Mexican history. He also wrote a small book investigating possible connections between Egyptian and Mexican beliefs.

When I read Brasseur’s books on the ancient history of Mexico I found it strange that he, being a clergyman, did not observe, or did not dare to report that in the Scriptures many pages deal with the very same events he was describing. He reported that cataclysmic events had been found in Mexican lore, events also described by several Spanish historians of the sixteenth century. These were events of great violence. Mountains rose and moved; many volcanoes erupted from the North-Pacific Coast of North America all the way to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The ocean rose like a wall and moved, accompanied by terrific winds. Fiery bodies were seen fighting in the sky. Stones descended from above, followed by rains of naphtha. Men were maddened by the din and the paramount danger. Houses collapsed and were carried away, hurricanes tore out great trees of whole forests with their roots. If such a great catastrophe occurred today, what impression would it leave in the survivors?

The catastrophe of the second millennium has been remembered on very many pages of the Biblical Prophets and the Psalms. Our whole life is pervaded by influences originating in these and other catastrophic events that took place in earlier ages. The catastrophes survive in the liturgy still used today, only we choose not to examine them as such. Whatever area of life we select to explore we find some vestige of the terrifying events of the past. The calendar is a good example, either the Jewish calendar or the Christian calendar or that of any other creed. Throughout the year the holidays are reflections of catastrophic events. The midwinter holiday celebrated as either Christmas or Hanukkah, the Week of Light, is a renewal of the Roman Saturnalia. If you read about the Roman Saturnalia you recognize immediately almost all of the rites of Hanukkah or Christmas, now celebrated at the end of December. They commemorate events of the days when the planet Saturn exploded into a nova, long before the events that I describe in Worlds in Collision. Seven days before the Universal Deluge began, the solar system became illuminated as brilliantly as if by a hundred suns. In the Deluge, not only the Earth but other planets of the solar system were engulfed. Nature was wanton: the destruction was great. Mars, Mercury, and the Moon, as the space pictures now reveal, became flying cemeteries. Nothing living remained, although probably there was once life on those planets — its destruction was complete. In comparison, the Earth fared well and thus mankind could call itself the “Chosen People” : not because all men survived, not because there was no destruction; in fact there was decimation, even extinction of whole genera, and massive mutations, caused mainly by cosmic rays and X-rays emitted by Saturn. Subsequent to the Deluge an environment was created on Earth in which life could not only exist, but could flourish, with an abundance of water, a change of climate with changed seasons, with a magnetosphere now giving protection from cosmic rays and an ionosphere giving protection from ultraviolet rays. The new orbit the Earth circled was not too close to the Sun, not too far from it, a climate unlike that of Mars (too cold) or Venus (too hot).

The Universal Deluge was not the first catastrophe to decimate life on our Earth: other calamities preceded it. Dim memories from these more ancient times survive in mythology. Before the age of Kronos (Saturn’s “Golden Age”) there was the age of Ouranos.4 Egyptian myths of great antiquity relate stories of battles and changes in the sky and of vast destruction on Earth, changes that we neglect to investigate and know in our desire to believe that we live on a planet that is stable and safe.


The phenomenon of racial amnesia occupied Freud’s mind in the last decades of his life, in fact it became his obsession.

Initially Freud claimed that the impressions made upon a child’s mind dictate the child’s future and cause also neuroses in juvenile and adult life. Later Freud reversed his thesis and claimed that man’s destiny is triggered by images which exist within the racial memory, deep within the unconscious mind.

From psychoanalytic studies we know that a traumatic experience, either of a physical or psychological nature, leaves a strong vestige deep within the human soul. Such vestiges are in the heritage that comes to us from antiquity. They are found in most of the written documents that survive from the civilizations of the past; from Mexico, China, Iceland, Iran, India, Sumeria, Rome, Greece, Egypt, and ) idea. They also survive from traditions carried from generation to generation, by word of mouth, in races that do not know how to write. These latter traditions eventually are written down by anthropologists, who collect together stories of catastrophes from north and south, from west and east, from Lapland and the South Sea Islands. We ask why we do not recognize this evidence the vestiges of which exist within the souls of men. The answer is that because these vestiges are buried so deeply we are unable to see the evidence before us.

The story is repeated in the records of the stones and bones uncovered at every latitude and longitude.

Chief Mountain5 that you can see from here, was once overturned. The fossils that belong near Chief Mountain’s summit are found at its base. The Matterhorn in the Alps has been moved to its present location northward from Lombardy and overturned. In several different places in the Bible you can find verses describing mountains moving or overthrown. Such biblical verses appeared even to fundamentalists as metaphoric expressions. Today many theologians prefer to regard the Old Testament as a book of poetry rather than what it seemingly is. The inability to see evidence which is clearly written down and evidence so clearly presented by nature is a psychological phenomenon. Because the evidence was so clear, it was not necessary for me to look far to find it. When I started to collect the material for Worlds in Collision it was not the scarcity of material but its abundance that was my impediment. I was able to use but a small fraction of what exists in the surviving literature.

Amnesia is one of the defense reactions of man. Those who immediately survived did not necessarily become victims of amnesia, though this may have occurred. We know the effects of battle-shock on soldiers. It is likely that the larger amnesia took some time to develop.

In the older Greek authors, the Pythagoreans and the Stoics, you find definite statements indicating that catastrophes which occurred in the history of the human race and in the history of our Earth were not abnormal events, they were actually dominant, repeating themselves again and again. But from the historical records we see that the knowledge of the catastrophes disappeared slowly into oblivion.

Plato described cataclysms in several works; he wrote about worlds destroyed and rebuilt. In his Timaeus he noted that the Greeks do not remember ancient catastrophes, besides the Deluge. He adds that the people of his time, as the priests of Sais told Solon, were unable to remember these catastrophic events. In another work, whose authorship is probably wrongly ascribed to Plato, he is presented as believing in a peaceful universe. Plato’s pupil Aristotle refused to believe in catastrophes. The scholarly world has accepted Aristotle’s view that the planets can never change their motions. He, more than anyone else is responsible for the continuing belief that we live in a safe world, on a planet to which nothing like collisions can happen. Aristotle argued that those who believe in celestial catastrophes should be brought to trial, and if convicted, punished by death.

In the first century before the present era Lucretius knows of, and writes about these catastrophes and their terror. Cicero, like Aristotle, denies the possibility of the planets changing their orbits and advocates that people believing this should be brought to court and severely punished.


At the beginning of the Christian era, or in the century before it, mankind awaited another catastrophe. This catastrophe was expected because seven hundred years had separated the last series of upheavals of the eighth-seventh centuries from the one of the fifteenth century. This expectation created an eschatological literature and the appearance of Messiahs. The Book of Revelation is one of the great books of this eschatological literature. The end of the world is painted with the experience of the past serving as a model.

Look at Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement. Sadism is as predominant as masochism in this Christian description of the events of the Last Day. The catastrophe, the Last Day, has now been transferred into the sky, into heaven, but not an astronomical heaven; these are different heavens. In reality Michelangelo is painting events already described by the prophets Isaiah, Joel, Amos, and Micah, who lived during the catastrophes of the seventh and eighth centuries before the present era.

Because of man’s aversion to knowing his past, science has been greatly retarded, pretending unreality to be as truth. This explains the fury of the opposition that declared war on my book. Worlds in Collision. If the book were fantasy, would it not have had its season and died down? It has not died down. It survives. But scientists have not investigated my claims nor tested the evidence presented, nor have they searched for new evidence. Instead, scientists have chosen to oppose me and my book in most ingenious ways, substituting name-calling and mockery for discussing and testing. Scientists are followers of a cult, defending dogmas with which they do not wish to part. Scientists have proclaimed these dogmas to be established laws, when in reality they are nothing but views, and erroneous ones at that.

In my book Worlds in Collision there are footnotes which allow the reader to check the sources of my claims. In twenty-four years those scholars who have taken time to check my sources have found that my quotations have not been taken out of context. But, of course, I do not claim infallibility. Establishment scientists, despite their proclaimed idealism, deserve to be labeled pseudo-scientists. In science, claims are accompanied by proof; in pseudo-science proof is omitted and any discussion that questions the dogma is suppressed. In the discoveries of the Space Age there is now an independent proof of the claims made in Worlds in Collision and Earth in Upheaval. The Moon, and Mars, and Mercury, and also other planetary bodies went through paroxysms.

The subconscious desire of man to know his past was the basis of progress which led to the development of science. The aversion to accepting the truth about the past inevitably blocks the road. Scientific efforts are directed away from the right channels, and so science briefly progresses, and then regresses. For a full hundred years Darwin not only advanced, but also retarded the development of science. My work has also produced both a positive and a negative effect. Claims have been maintained that would not have been maintained if the scientists had not felt obliged to contradict the iconoclastic views expressed in Earth in Upheaval and Worlds in Collision.

Suppression and Regression

In postulating that the Earth was a planet travelling around the Sun, Aristarchus was the precursor of Copernicus. Copernicus realized this, because in the original preface to De Revolutionibus6 he referred to Aristarchus, but removed the reference before the book was published in the year of his death. Between these men are seventeen centuries yet both were opposed by the scientific minds of their day. Mankind has the need to live in an unreal world. Men did not wish to believe that their planet travels through space. A moving planet might not be safe, it could collide with something. The thought that the Earth could collide is by itself traumatic.

No ancient scientist is considered greater than Archimedes. Archimedes was irreverent toward his senior contemporary, Aristarchus, for believing that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Archimedes won, and after the time of Ptolemy (second century of the current era) the victory was complete. Science accepted this untruth, not just for centuries, but for more than a millennium.

Despite the fact that Aristotle did not profess beliefs which in any way resembled the beliefs of Christianity, a strange symbiosis developed between the writings of Aristotle and the Bible. Aristotle was the authority that dominated Christian thinking for many centuries. Copernicus’ theory was rejected, not because of the Bible, but because of Aristotle.

In this century there was great opposition when I proposed that the Earth had nearly collided with other planets. Science, too, is torn between the desire to know and the aversion to knowing. But my revelation was really just a rediscovery, the evidence was always there. I did not read any hidden texts, the words were clearly written, they were shouting at me from all book shelves.

The Darwinian Revolution was also a regression. Disturbing evidence was ignored; it was as if he worked with closed eyes. Darwin proposed that only the fittest survive. He believed that, through competition alone, the first unicellular bodies could evolve into more complex life forms, as different as man, worm, and bird. Darwin did not know about mutations.

His notebooks from the only field trip he ever undertook contain descriptions of cataclysmic disruptions. He wrote that nothing less than the shaking of the entire frame of the Earth could result in the mass annihilation of life forms that he observed. On the continental scale he observed that life forms, large and small, were extinguished or decimated from Tierra del Fuego to the Bering Strait. Darwin did not accept the implications of the evidence that he saw with his own eyes.

The Darwinian Revolution was the rebirth of Aristotle, whose ideas had lost ground, if not at the time of the Renaissance, then in the Age of Enlightenment. Even in the Age of Enlightenment men espoused ideas of a peaceful earth. Jean Jacques Rousseau believed that there was a happy beginning to the human race and that because of man’s sinfulness, he has become what he is today. That paradise existed in the past is another dream.

In the days of Rousseau and Voltaire there lived in France a man whose name is probably not familiar to most of you. He was an engineer named Nicolas-Antoine Boulanger. He wrote an article on the Deluge for the great French Encyclopédie, published by d’Alembert and Diderot. Boulanger also wrote l’Antiquité devoilé par ses usages, a work in several volumes. Voltaire and Rousseau and other great names pale in my eyes before Nicolas Boulanger. At my request. Dr. Mullen7 was kind enough to bring two of these volumes from the Princeton University Library. I have displayed them on the floor as material evidence of Boulanger’s work.

I discovered Boulanger rather late in my research. First I read about him in Stecchini’s paper in the September 1963 issue of the American Behavioral Scientist”.8 Although I still have to study Boulanger’s work carefully, his findings surprise me greatly. I realized that he was the precursor of Freud, and in many respects of myself. I do not know what led Boulanger to his discovery. He writes mostly of the Deluge, but not only does he realize that there were catastrophes, he draws some conclusions about the mental effects they caused.

The recognition of past cataclysms opens new vistas in all fields of inquiry, even in morals and ethics. I wish to draw your attention to a book by Pitirim Sorokin9 in which he discussed calamities like world wars and famine. He discovered that two reactions occur. One reaction is to help (a humanitarian reaction), and the other reaction is to harm (a destructive reaction); he saw evidence for this in the excesses of the Russian Revolution. Sorokin’s idea of dichotomy is illustrated on the one hand by the way the escapees from Egypt interpreted the noises caused by the folding and twisting of strata, noises of the screeching Earth described also by Hesiod — the Israelites heard in them a voice giving ethical commands.

Elsewhere on the tortured Earth, other races responded differently: compare Olympus to Sinai. The Homeric scandals on Olympus occurred at the time of the cataclysms; this was the other reaction. Another example comes from Heraclitus10, who compared the different descriptions of the Pantheon by Plato and by Homer. We see then, past and present, both reactions to calamity.

Planet Gods

The inability to accept the catastrophic past is the source of man’s aggression. Astronomy preoccupied all ancient peoples — in Mexico, in Babylonia, and elsewhere. It was the dominant occupation of the sages. The ancients watched the planetary bodies because they were afraid that another disaster would occur. Astrology has its beginning in the deeds of the planets. Many of the liturgies since antiquity are echoing in catastrophic events. Around the world peoples of all faiths worshipped astral bodies. Great temples were erected to the planetary deities. The Parthenon was built to honour Athene. In Athens, a few columns of the temple to Zeus are still standing. Temples were erected to Jupiter in Baalbek, and to Amon (Jupiter) in Kamak. The worship and sacrifices to the various deities of the past have the same genesis, as do the establishment of priesthoods and priestly rituals, many of which are still used. Even in the Christian era, temple architecture has memorialized these events. The Gothic buildings of the Middle Ages refer to unconscious catastrophic memories and to lingering mnemes of terrifying apparitions exemplified by the dreadful figures of Notre Dame. The greatest feat of engineering of the past, the great pyramids of Egypt, were royal shelters against possible repetition of catastrophic events.

In his Despotisme orientate, Boulanger discusses those ancient kings and tyrants who behaved as if they wished to be regarded as earthly equivalents of the planetary gods. Only rarely did they desire to be called sun gods because the Sun was never the supreme deity. Today, we find this strange because we do not recognize the catastrophic history of our Solar System. Macrobius, a Latin author of the fourth century identified Jupiter of mythology and of religion as the Sun. Modern authors do the same thing when they say that Amon was the Sun, or Nergal was the Sun; they were not. Around the world mythology and folklore testify that some ancient terror underlies the origin of many social institutions. The sacred prostitution of the past became the secular prostitution of today. Warfare has its origin in the same terror. As the ancient Assyrian kings went to war they compared the destructiveness of their acts to the devastations caused by the astral deities at the time of upheavals. In creating symbols, men were depicting battles in the sky; the Mogen David of ancient Israel or even of Israel of today, the five-pointed star of Communist Russia and China, and of the US Armed Forces are emblems of Athene-Pallas. The dragon, be it Chinese, Assyrian or Mexican, or the dragon fighting with St. George or with Michael the archangel originates from the apparition first seen on the celestial screen in the days of the Passage of the Sea. All Mayan, Olmec and Toltec monuments and temples are constructed to Quetzalcohuatl, the planet Venus and other planetary bodies which superseded in their dominance one another in planetary ages. Quetzalcohuatl is omnipresent in Yucatan, a winged serpent or dragon, exhaling burning water or naphtha.


The after-effects of what took place millennia ago do not lose their grip on the human race. If anything, the trend continues and accelerates. Wars made by irrational nations led by irrational governments have been recurring since the time of the Assyrian kings, and have been growing in scale as preparations for war continue. In the last century the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov recognized that almost all technology for peaceful uses had firstly originated and developed to serve destruction. The awarding of the Nobel Peace prizes has been of no help in preventing military conflicts.

Freud exchanged with Einstein famous letters on the subject of ‘Why War?’ — but he resigned to the unavoidability of human carnages. Due to the persistent urge for destruction in man, already early in the development of his theory he realized that traumatic experiences, whether of physical or psychological nature, cause amnesia in the individual; and further, as years passed, he realized that the victim of traumatic experience, whether still on his conscious mind, or submerged in oblivion, urges the victim to live once more through the traumatic experience, and sometimes, more often than not, making somebody else the victim. But Freud thought that man was reliving the regularly-repeated drama of the murder of the father by his grown-up sons which occurred in the caves of the Stone Age. Freud believed that an indelible vestige of this prehistoric trauma lurks deep within the human mind, and as years passed he came to the thought that possessed all his thinking. Racial memory of some traumatic experiences dominates man and society to the extent that the human race in his diagnosis, lives in delusion. But he did not know the true traumatic nature of the historical past, namely, the outburst of wantonness in nature itself, and so he insisted that each individual relives the catastrophes of the past, which he believed to be the murder of the father, the Oedipus complex. He opposed the biological view of his day, and of today, too, and insisted that this imprint was transported through the genes from one generation to the next. He did not come to know the true nature of the Great Trauma — born in the Theogony or battle of the planetary gods with our Earth, brought more than once to the brink of destruction —which was the fate of Mercury, Mars, and Moon. Freud died in exile from his home, when a crazed worshipper of Wotan was preparing another Götterdäm-merung.

The great riddle unsolved, Freud closed his eyes when the hakenkreutz (another ancient emblem) carrying troops marched into flaming Poland.

Another generation rose since the end of World War II. The technology of destruction since the days when a mushroom rose over Hiroshima has advanced tremendously. The human urge to repeat the traumatic experiences of the past did not subside, but grew, and he who tried to reveal them was reviled. How many atomic submarines have been built? How many mushroom clouds can be produced? In how many ways can we destroy all life on this Earth? A Damocles sword hangs over the human race. The planets have finally retired into peaceful coexistence. But mankind, though not in the center of creation, still, in its optimal place, is a pandemonium of races and nations, while the blueprint of Armageddon is on the drawing boards, and the arsenal to incinerate this globe and degenerate whatever population will survive is growing from day to day. The adversaries on both sides of the Atlantic, with many small nations emulating them are as if living with the urge to see again the unchained elements in a nuclear multi-head explosion over every locality of the Old and New Worlds.

I feel that I must speak out on this subject whenever and wherever I can. We are in a race, and I do not know if I can help, but I must try.

Unfortunately my attempt to cure the mental illness which afflicts mankind cannot use the methods of good psychiatry. You cannot put the human race on the couch. You cannot expect to cure using blunt statements about the past. Without preparation, without giving the patient a chance to prepare himself, you cannot slowly release from his subconscious mind the necessary recognition of the traumatic past. Above all others, the scientific community has experienced great paroxysms, and reacted in fury against the disclosures of a modern book.

The price for my revelation has been high, but what choice did I have? The enemy is time. I conclude with a verse which is not my own, and I don’t remember it exactly, but the hour is late, and I will repeat it:

We are in a race with the Reaper
We hastened, he tarried, we won.

I wish I could hope that it will be that way, and not the other way around.


  1. Worlds in Collision (1950), Ages in Chaos, Vol. I (1952), Earth in Upheaval (1955), Oedipus and Akhnaton (1960).

  2. The astronomical way of indicating 687 B.C.

  3. See Worlds in Collision (Macmillan/Doubleday, 1950) page 122, footnote 10; (Pocket Books, 1977), page 134; (Abacus, 1972), page 127, footnote 3.

  4. See In the Beginning, section Uranus.

  5. Earth in Upheaval (Doubleday, 1955), pages 71-72, footnote 5, (Abacus. 1973), pages 64-65; (Dell, 1968), page 75; (Pocket Books, 1977), pages 66-67.

  6. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was published in 1543.

  7. Dr. William Mullen, Hodder Fellow in the Humanities, Princeton University.

  8. “The Inconstant Heavens,” pages 19-35,43-44: this article has been reprinted in de Grazia, Juergens, and Stecchini eds. The Velikovsky Affair (University Books, 1966) pages 80-126.

  9. Man and Society in Calamity (Greenwood Press, 1968).

  10. Heraclitus, author of The Homeric Allegories (1st century present era) not to be confused with Heraclitus of Ephesus.

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